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I’m wide awake at 5:47 a.m. on a Tuesday for no good reason.
I spent 13 hours yesterday working in front of a screen, which I know is just a regular day for many of us.
But this morning my mind and body are still racing. Fully charged with edgy, tech-y energy from yesterday’s conveyor belt of scrolling and multi-tasking. It’s not even 6:00 a.m. yet and I’m already so far down the rabbit hole of my to-do list that I’m completely disengaged from my own body and emotions. I’ve got a pounding screen time hangover.
With eyes half-closed and just a candle lighting the way, I bring myself—in housecoat and slippers—to my yoga mat.
“Just lay here,” my body says.
“Just let me breathe you.”
“You’ve been working too hard.”
Over the next hour, I only do three yin postures. In yin yoga, postures are performed on the floor with relaxed muscles and held for multiple minutes. It is an agonizingly passive practice. It might not sound like much, but in my world lately, allowing myself to “do less” yields so, so, so much “more.”
After laying quietly on the floor for an hour, the tension in my tissues starts to melt and flush from my body. I begin to hear the wisdom that rises from deep within me when all external distractions are turned off.
I’m even left with a juicy bit of intel from from my heart to guide me into my morning—
“Unplug today, and you will feel your Godliness.”
Delicious. Soul food.
My practice this week, as the trees surrender their leaves to the fall equinox, is about releasing the obstacles I cling to. The barricades I place in front of myself that stand between me and my “Godliness”—you know, that badass version of yourself you love embodying, the one that all your seeking is directed toward knowing, experiencing, and merging with.
This morning it is clear that the obstacle between me and me 2.0 is screen time.
Yes, technology is incredible. It empowers us to contribute and connect in unprecedented ways. I’m not hating on technology.
What I am hating on, is the detriments to our physical, emotional, mental, social, occupational, environmental, and spiritual wellness that arise when our relationship to technology is out of balance.
This morning all I want is resonance.
I want what I feel in my body to harmonize with what I feel around me.
I want to be so attuned to my own wisdom that I don’t doubt it for one millisecond.
I want to be so present in my interactions that I hear the entirety of people’s stories, beyond the periscope-narrative of their words.
I used to work for an organization that provided skill-development opportunities to youth in skilled trades and technologies. What I found most fascinating was that the research and feedback I collected from government, industry, and post-secondary institutions was unanimous:
The most important skills for the future will be skills a robot can’t [yet] do.
Human-specific skills—like creativity, empathy, and adaptability—or, what the World Economic Forum describes as “liquid skills.” The skills we only develop when we get hands-on and face-to-face with our world, our passions, and the people in it. The skills we only truly develop when we unplug and engage.
I’ve had many conversations with researchers and educators who identify tech addiction as an epidemic and a primary predictor of mental health pathologies in young adults. Here are a couple research tidbits that really urged me to balance my own relationship to technology:
In the developing brain, connectivity is “super-charged” by human-to-human interaction and subdued by screen-based media.
These findings come from John Hutton’s work—an emergent literacy researcher at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. A professor of mine summarized his work to our class in a video of a child connected to a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI). The fMRI recorded the child’s brain activation and connectivity in three scenarios: 1) a caregiver reading a story to the child, 2) the child watching a recording of an adult reading the same story, and 3) the child watching a narrated animation of the story.
The results? The child’s brain “lit up” when the caregiver read to them. Their neural networks partially fired during the recorded storytelling. And in the audio-and-animation only scenario—nothing. Dead air. Barely a whisper of activity.
Our brains are wired for human connection. Did you know we have an entire region of our brain—the fusiform face area—that is dedicated solely to recognizing other human faces? Even our neurobiology wants us to connect!
Concerning research tidbit #2:
As of 2013, the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish.
In 2015, Microsoft’s Attention Spans Research Report declared that the average human attention span slipped from twelve to eight seconds between the years 2000 and 2013. The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. The take-home message was that “digital lifestyles affect the ability to remain focused for extended periods of time.” Half the participants in the study said technology sometimes had a negative impact on their life, and recognized the importance of unplugging. But only 39 percent reported actually taking time to disconnect from technology at least one a month.
Okay—we get it. We need to put down our phones, turn off our laptops, dial down the binge-watching, get out in the world, and connect.
So why is that so hard to actually do?
When such a huge portion of our world is, quite literally, contained on a pocket-sized device that rarely leaves our grasp, the thought of losing contact with that device can be panic-inducing.
Building a healthy relationship with technology takes practice. I’ve prioritized this practice for a few years now, and like any relationship, there are great days and there are…not so great days. I’ve created a list of practices that have helped me navigate what it means to live in balance with technology. These practices are my medicine—the survival guide I reach for in chaos to take back my attention, connect with my world, and re-embody my “Godliness.”